By Dr. Matthew Simmons, Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine
Have you noticed when you don’t stretch for prolonged periods, you become clumsier, your body more painful and even unable to do mundane tasks? You don’t have to be a gymnast, professional athlete, or even in good shape to experience the benefits of stretching.
Always warm up
You should never stretch cold muscles. Just like a rubber band, a muscle is more pliable when it is at a higher temperature. Stretching cold muscles can harm them and keep you from reaching your true potential.
For runners or walkers, include an active warm-up or dynamic stretching as part of each pre-workout routine. Dynamic stretching involves slow and controlled movements and can include arm circles, hip rotations, squats and lunges. Include all of your major muscle groups from your neck to your toes.
Reserve static stretching (holding your stretches) for after your workout. Repeat all the muscle groups you did before your workout, but this time, hold each stretch for about 15-30 seconds to help lengthen your muscles and improve flexibility post run.
Does stretching really decrease injury?
While there’s scant scientific evidence that regular and controlled stretching reduces your risk of injury, most runners say it staves off soreness. In any case, it improves flexibility, mobility and range of motion, big pluses, especially the older you are. Stretching can also relax the body, reduce stress levels and can help put your body in good ergonomic alignment.
Don’t overdo it
The goal of stretching is simple: to improve posture and encourage better joint movement. Remember not to overstretch. Feeling pain during a stretch indicates that you have stretched too far. If it hurts to stretch, then stop. If pain persists, see your doctor, you could have an injury.
Dr. Matthew Simmons is a board-certified physician in sports medicine and family medicine, and serves as the director of the Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine Program, providing care to high school athletes throughout Cherokee County. If you have experienced a sports injury, call 770-517-6636 to discuss how we can assist you with your specific condition and return you to peak performance.
Visit Northside.com/Cherokee for more information